When I began my career in antique jewellery in London nearly 40 years ago, I quickly realised the importance of condition when it comes to reselling a piece. Seemingly slight damage made not just a vast difference to price but also to whether that jewel was desirable – at any price.
As I was only buying from and selling to other dealers in those early days, I decided to only buy items in excellent condition, purely to increase my chances of selling them on. It became a habit.
When I opened my first standalone shop on my return to Australia – having served an eight-year “apprenticeship” in the London antique markets – I decided to stick to my principle of only buying jewels in wonderful condition. I felt then, and still do, that if the new owner ever wanted to sell the piece, they should have the chance to maximise the potential price. And damaged goods only realise low prices on the open market. (I’m saddened today when I see Etsy and Instagram dealers with many thousands of followers charging high prices for items that are quite visibly damaged.)
For me, while an antique jewel must be authentic, its condition is just as important. As I see it, people age but jewellery doesn’t have to.
All this means I’m extremely choosy about the antique and period jewels I buy and offer for sale. Gemstones must be original, not replacements. Antique rings must have started their lives as rings, not as Victorian brooches or Georgian buttons. Enamel should be intact, micro-mosaics complete, goldwork crisp. I like antique Persian turquoise to be bright and even, not green and discoloured.
This insistence is because I still see it as my responsibility to my clients to find them pieces that will not only hold their value as investments, but appreciate.
Of course, not everything I have for sale is pristine. I choose pieces by weighing design, workmanship, authenticity, wearability and the intrinsic value of the gemstones and metals against their rarity and condition. So I may offer jewels that do show signs of wear – as long as they are rare and precious. And I ensure that my listings both mention and show that wear.
All that said, I do understand many will not agree with all that I’ve said about condition. I like it that we all come to appreciating antique jewellery with an individual mindset. This is mine – what’s yours?